Time to make up for lost time - The Province

Injury-riddled Whitecap eyes Montreal moment

By Marc Weber, The Province

The lasting memory of Marlon James this season is one of pain.

An ankle sprain. A calf strain. Hamstring pull. Tweaked groin.

Injuries forced the Vancouver Whitecaps' forward to miss almost half the regular season and three of four Nutrilite Canadian Championship games.

He has 90 minutes, perhaps 30 more and penalty kicks, to paint a new picture -- a profoundly joyous one -- in Montreal on Saturday.

"To my personal standard, I didn't get the time on the field I wanted to put in," James said. "This is the game I can really make up for it."

Montreal hosts Vancouver in the second leg of the USL-1 championship, carrying over a 3-2 lead from last Saturday's win at Swangard Stadium.

If the teams are tied at the end of the second leg, they will play a 30-minute overtime (no golden goal), followed, if needed, by penalty kicks. Home and away goals are worth the same.

James, the Whitecaps' big offseason signing, has not lived up to the hype this year. But that's only because he's been hurt. When he's on the field, James's pedigree is clear.

The 32-year-old from St. Vincent and the Grenadines came advertised as a goal-scoring machine after pumping in 47 in as many games for Kedah FA of Super League Malaysia last season.

For the Whitecaps, he netted nine league goals in just 900 minutes. And that was without the benefit of game fitness.

He was effective as a second-half substitute in the first leg of the final against Montreal, scoring the 2-2 goal and missing another equalizer by inches.

James is still not fully fit, but head coach Teitur Thordarson had him -- not Charles Gbeke -- on the first unit with rookie Marcus Haber at Tuesday's training. Today's session in Montreal will be more revealing.

James is a consummate teammate, constantly positive and professional. He says all the right things about coming off the bench, but he'd love a start, love to be more in control of erasing a season of frustration in a place that gives him good vibes.

"It's a stadium that I love playing football in," he said of Saputo Stadium. "With the national team [in World Cup qualifying] I scored there against Canada, and I got one against Montreal this year. Every time I go there I enjoy the atmosphere and I enjoy playing against Montreal."

He also enjoys, as he puts it, "the big occasions."

In Malaysia Cup finals in 2007 and '08 -- both won by Kedah in front of crowds of 80,000 -- James scored three goals. And Saturday is an occasion made all the more meaningful because it's his daughter Malaya's second birthday.

"I'm hoping the next few years, when she's growing up, when she asks why I missed her birthday, I can say it was for a damn good reason," said James, whose family is back in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

"This is what I got -- a nice medal and a championship.

"Being her birthday, it's going to be even that much more special for me to get a victory and I'm confident we can go there and do it.

"As Barack Obama said: 'Yes We Can.'"

mweber@theprovince.com

USL-1 final, 2nd leg

Vancouver at Montreal

When: Saturday, 11:30 a.m. PT

Where: Saputo Stadium

TV: Fox Sports World Canada

Radio: TEAM 1040 AM
© Copyright (c) Canwest News Service